While there are more pressing events occurring in our world now (a pandemic, much-needed protests against systemic injustice), June is still Pride month. It’s a month where we thank the LGBTQ+ icons who expanded the reach of human rights to include LGBTQ+ individuals and the leaders who are continuing their legacies while celebrating the beauty of being LGBTQ+. Gather your closest friends and throw a Pride parade (on Zoom, in your backyard, on your driveway – the world is your runway!) to these loved bops.
Bloom, Troye Sivan
The title single off of Troye Sivan’s sophomore album is a work of art. “Bloom” tastefully depicts the sexual exploration that many gay men stumble through. Dubbed as a “gay anthem for bottoms,” the song recreates the energy of the experience with its slow-burning verses, rapidly rising bridge, and euphoric choruses. Couched in atmospheric synths, “Bloom” rides the line between reality and fantasy in a way that many gay men can relate to.
To spice up your romantic side: “The fountains and the waters / Are begging just to know you”
Apps, SAKIMA (feat. Robokid)
SAKIMA does not shy away from incorporating queer themes into his music and “Apps” is no exception. This Robokid-assisted track takes a grittier take on LGBTQ+ sexuality fit with an equally chaotic production. SAKIMA attacks the pervasive popularity of apps like Grindr on the promiscuity of gay men, insisting that the focus should be solely on him. He closes the banger with a subtle critique on the lack of political activism among gay men. As we come up on an election in a couple of months, we should listen to this outro a little closely.
To remember to vote: “Just cause you’ve won the right / Don’t mean you’ve won the fight”
Girl Blunt, Leikeli47
Most identifiable by her vibrant masks, Leikeli47 maintains a mysterious and private persona, heightening the focus on her unmistakable flow and descriptive lyricism. “Girl Blunt” demonstrates both of these qualities quite clearly as Leikeli47 coolly asserts her dominance on the track. Oozing confidence with a bite, “Girl Blunt” is an empowering banger for the girls first and everyone else second.
To be honest: “Invite me to your party but I never go”
Focus, Charli XCX
“Focus” is a textbook bop – clear chorus + half-rapped verses + effervescent production. Charli XCX reminds her lover to keep eyes and the attention on her with a chorus that borders on a hypnosis chant. It’s hard to listen to this song and not think of it playing at a party or at the club; the tune hits all of the marks for a pop song, but it incorporates some of the futuristic sounds that XCX has become known for. Let “Focus” put you into a trance and dance the summer night away.
To instruct vivaciously: “Make it pop, Coca-Cola / Keep it hot, Barcelona”
WTP, Teyana Taylor (feat. Mykki Blanco)
Drawing heavily from the Harlem Ballroom scene popularized in the documentary Paris Is Burning, “WTP” is a tightly produced banger that oozes confidence, power, and celebration. Teyana Taylor, a Harlem native, shows her appreciation for the LGBTQ+ subculture that has been a part of her life since her teenage years and a part of the mainstream for decades with the introduction of voguing, balls, and reading among other facets. Mykki Blanco serves as the MC on this track, emulating the MC’s of the Harlem Ballroom scene and their sharp commentary. Fit with dialogue from Paris Is Burning, “WTP” is an ostentatious appreciation of ball culture that has been long overdue.
To keep your eyes on the prize: “Save your tears honey / You’re a motherfucking diva”
LoveGame, Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is an icon for the LGBTQ+ community and the entertainment industry writ large, but people usually highlight her star power with cuts like “Born This Way” and “Applause”. For me, “LoveGame” does a better job; it’s a nod to the brazen approach that Gaga takes to music that makes her such a force to be reckoned with. Written in just four minutes, “LoveGame” paints the picture of an encounter that’s just as quick and charged with adrenaline and lust. Throw yourself back to 2008 (!!!), get your glitter on, and party on to “LoveGame.”
To keep it realistic: “I wanna kiss you / But if I do, then I might miss you, babe”
Lucky Strike, Troye Sivan
With “Lucky Strike,” Troye Sivan gives us a summertime queer anthem that we desperately needed. Like “Bloom,” the song features cool atmospheric synths, but it’s considerably more mellow. “Lucky Strike” explores the high-stakes dependency that comes with a summertime fling, consuming both lovers, no matter the sexual orientation. Like the cigarettes it refers to, “Lucky Strike” is addictive, but without the harmful side-effects.
To describe your significant other: “And my boy, like a queen / Unlike one you’ve ever seen”
Femmebot, Charli XCX (feat. Dorian Electra & Mykki Blanco)
Charli XCX is a champion of mainstream hyperpop and she demonstrates her prowess in “Femmebot.” Featuring LGBTQ+ artists Dorian Electra and Mykki Blanco, “Femmebot” flips the negative connotation on being feminine into an ownership of one’s sexuality and power. The track paints a future in which being femme is celebrated and widespread as seen in the track’s production, lyrics, and artists. The future is female!
To remind them that you’re unlike any other: “Go fuck your prototype / I’m an upgrade of your prototype”
There’s something charming about Clairo’s emotionally explosive “Sofia”. Inspired by her first crushes on women in media, “Sofia” paints an optimistic view of love from the perspective of an enchanted Clairo. The song’s electropop feel, fit with punctuated drums and effervescent synths, translates into an exhilarating venture into discovering sexuality. The layering of Clairo’s vocals via a vocoder and an uptempo beat at the end transcends the listener into her headspace, so that when the song is over, you’re as content as she is.
To explore uncharted waters: “I don’t want to say goodbye / And I think we could do it if we tried”
A clear standout from the critically acclaimed Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, “Immaterial” is a futuristic dance cut that leaves a label-obsessed society behind in exchange for a world that you mold in your vision. SOPHIE draws on her identity as a trans woman and her journey to create a song that explores the idea of self-creation without societal (or even physical) restraints, namely gender. “Immaterial” urges listeners to challenge their minds and to become unbound.
To go back to your roots: “Where do I live? / Tell me, where do I exist?”
I’m Coming Out, Diana Ross
“I’m Coming Out” is a classic LGBTQ+ anthem sung by the legendary songstress Diana Ross. Inspired by songwriter Nile Rodgers seeing three drag queens dressed as Ross, the disco-tinged tune resonates with the LGBTQ+ community with its unapologetic proclamation of identity and self-love. In the midst of the rampant homophobia at the time, Ross was hesitant to release the song, but Rodgers, knowing Ross’ growing popularity with the LGBTQ+ community and her need to sustain her successful solo career, insisted on it. Because of his insistence, the world now has a bubbly, empowering tune that speaks to all sorts of self-discovery and personal triumphs.
To let the world know: “I have to shout / That I am coming out”
Heart to Break, Kim Petras
We’ve all been there; you enter into a relationship (or a brief dalliance – I’m not judging!) with the knowledge that this person may run over your heart at the end of it. However, you’re ok with it – this person’s worth it. Over an infectious pop production, Kim Petras’ “Heart to Break” describes this “love suicide.” Petras, a proud trans woman who has spoken candidly about LGBTQ+ issues and trans visibility, similarly speaks about the complexities of a possibly doomed relationship through the lyrics of “Heart to Break”. While the relationship might not be good for you, listening to “Heart to Break” will balance it out (that’s how science works – trust me).
When you just need to give in: “And when you touch me, I’m a fool / This game I know I’m gonna lose”
Virtus Domum, SAKIMA
Much like the club beat that it builds off, “Virtus Domum” (Latin for “Power House”) is deceptively positive. What begins as a sensual encounter between an older and a younger man ends as a coercive abuse of power that leaves the former as a hedonistic aggressor and the latter as a self-blaming victim. The story in “Virtus Domum” is sadly not uncommon in the gay community; SAKIMA notes that he drew from a personal experience when crafting this song. Despite the morose subject matter, SAKIMA encourages people to continue to listen to the track in order to remind themselves even when something happens out of their control, they still own their story and what becomes of it.
No funny prompt, but just a heartbreaking and real lyric: “He wanna see me lose control / Didn’t care, I was nineteen”
CupcakKe has always been unapologetically herself when it comes to her lyricism and she similarly feels the same should apply to everyone else, especially her fans. The LGBTQ+ community has supported Chicago-born rapper from her early days on social media and she has reciprocated that support vocally and with songs like “LGBT”. In what may be one of the best examples of allyship in recent years, “LGBT” is an open acceptance of the community and a testament to CupcaKke’s brash delivery. CupcaKke has taken a more mature, refined sound with her music now, but she’s never forgotten about her roots and her activism.
To enter a party in style: “Fuck out my way when you see me / I’m rollin’ with the LGBT”
Supermodel (You Better Work), RuPaul
Before RuPaul’s Drag Race, RuPaul was a popular New York drag queen with his eyes set on global stardom. With the campy and disco-flared “Supermodel (You Better Work)”, he got exactly that. In a decade in which grunge reigned king, “Supermodel” delivered cattiness and flair, reaching the mainstream with the help of its popularity with the LGBTQ+ audience and with stars like Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Turn on your attitude and sashay to “Supermodel”.
To feel your fantasy: “And it don’t matter what you do / ‘Cause everything looks good on you”
Curious, Hayley Kiyoko
Much like the character she played on Lemonade Mouth, Hayley Kiyoko is not afraid to stir up some trouble in pursuit of art. “Curious” is based on Kiyoko’s real-life experiences and she calls out a girl who’s masked her clear interest in other girls as a curious venture. Kiyoko herself struggled with coming out as a lesbian woman and she knows more than anyone about the societal pressure on LGBTQ+ individuals to don a façade. “Curious” is Kiyoko’s more fun way of addressing the effect that this façade has on the person donning it and the people who become attracted with who’s behind it.
To DTR: “I’m just curious, is it serious?”
Crèmé Brûlée, Shea Couleé
I’m not sure the world understands what I would give to have an ounce of Shea Couleé’s bad bitch energy. Her energy is palpable in her competition, as seen on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 and the currently airing RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars Season 5, and in her musical cuts like “Crèmé Brûlée”. Coulée’s rhythmic delivery on the quick paced beat allows for her confidence to glide effortlessly on the track, which is taken to the next level when she dabbles in a little French. “Crèmé Brûlée” is the right amount of confidence, seduction, and polish for every queen out there.
To call the situation as it is: “Lickin’ your lips and staring at me / Cause you wanna push up on it cause I keep it banjee”
Given the relative mainstream success of “Mine”, St. Louis-based Slayyyter is a leader of the current revival of Y2K music. Throughout the track, Slayyyter pines for a boy she’s just met at the club à la any 2000s romcom. What makes “Mine” a treat is its inescapable nostalgia; Slayyyter delivers in the style of Y2K socialites like Paris Hilton on an instrumental that infuses house music and digitized hyperpop. It’s an easy pick for the summertime and for any Y2K-themed party.
To let him know how you can be reached: “Just hit me on your celly when you’re ready”
Shake It, Charli XCX (feat. Big Freedia, CupcaKke, Brooke Candy, Pabllo Vittar)
Much like 2017’s “I Got It”, Charli XCX takes this backseat and lets her talented collaborators take the show on the supersonic “Shake It”. Each of them takes a turn at the mic with a verse that’s either hard hitting rap (e.g. CupcaKke’s verse) or a gliding rap/singing hybrid (e.g. Brazilian drag queen Pabllo Vittar’s verse in Portuguese) while Charli XCX’s simple yet effective chorus brings the pieces together. The song is full of cocky assertions and jabs, but every collaborator emphasizes one common theme – the power of owning your sexuality.
To describe your problem-solving approach: “Se tenho um problema, eu resolvo com talent [If I have a problem, I solve it with talent]”
Stun, Alaska Thunderfuck (feat. Gia Gunn)
Many RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni launch into a music career after their lap(s) on the show, but not many can do it like All Stars Season 2 winner Alaska Thunderfuck. Thunderfuck makes fun, in-your-face music that’s as meticulous yet chaotic as her drag; “Stun” is no exception. Having Gia Gunn, the sensational (and controversial) Season 6 and All Stars Season 4 competitor, on this braggadocious banger elevates the track from a Drag Race gimmick to a LGBTQ+ club staple. Mushfequr tip – play this song when you’re getting ready and you’ll feel like you’re getting ready backstage for your show at Madison Square Garden.
To recount the conversation between your inner saboteur and conscience: “You look like a fucking dumpster / I feel more like a recycling bin”
Yummy, Ayesha Erotica
A force in the revitalized Y2K era, Ayesha Erotica is so incredibly in tune with her image, lyricism, and style that she comfortably writes, produces, and mixes her own bops while collaborating with other artists such as Slayyyter and That Kid. In many ways, Erotica’s music sets the bar for this wave of Y2K music with her raunchy and haughty persona. “Yummy” is a textbook Ayesha Erotica track – a scandalous hook with sharp verses over a bass-thumping and addictive production. Although Erotica has seemingly disappeared from the public eye, her Y2K it-girl image will remain enshrined with tracks like “Yummy”.
To reaffirm your purpose: “I do it for the girls and the gays, that’s it”
New Phone (Who Dis), Cakes da Killa
Cakes da Killa is courteous to let listeners catch their breath at the beginning of “New Phone (Who Dis)” before he comes out with guns blazing for the remaining 3 minutes and 15 seconds of the song. A rising force in LGBTQ+ hip hop, Cakes da Killa has been praised for his raunchy style a la Lil’ Kim and his acerbic delivery. “New Phone (Who Dis)” sees Cakes da Killa exercise his wit as he flips the meme that the title refers to into a hard-hitting dismissal of a man who’s overstayed his welcome in da Killa’s life. Life is too short to let one man run your life – take a page from Cakes da Killa and leave him in the dust.
To be upfront on the first date: “High maintenance, very little patience”
Taco Bell, That Kid
Listen – after a night out, I would do unmentionable things for Taco Bell. While That Kid shares a similar love for Taco Bell, his love is entwined with his fast-growing attraction to a guy on the Ayesha Erotica-produced “Taco Bell”. Like most Y2K tracks, “Taco Bell” is rich in nostalgia with its name-checking lyrics and classic digital production. The track is as fun as it is raunchy, making it a great bop. That Kid is a young star in the Y2K realm, but “Taco Bell” is a good indicator of his longevity in this particular area.
To impress any significant other: “And boy those, spicy nachos, they were hot as hell / Just like you”
Haircut, Ryan Beatty
Ryan Beatty first entered the limelight as a straight teen heartthrob covered on Radio Disney and in magazines like J-14 and Tiger Beat. Shortly after, he took a career-defining hiatus and in 2018, he came out as gay and with new music. “Haircut” is the opener of his dreamy pop debut Boy in Jeans, an album that explores Beatty’s journey in discovering his sexuality. Rather than timidly exploring sexuality, “Haircut” is a proud proclamation of being openly gay for Beatty. Much like how a haircut can completely change a person’s appearance, Beatty recognizes that his sexual orientation has changed his sense of identity – for the better.
To be at peace with yourself: “I smile on and feel the closure / I finally feel like me again”
Boys!, Bronze Avery
“The soundtrack to a summer daydream.” That’s the first sentence of Bronze Avery’s biography on Spotify and a perfect description for his melodic pop bop “Boys!”. Kicking off with a synth opening that warms up like a sunrise, “Boys!” is a wholehearted appreciation of men, even when they do the shittiest things. Producing and writing the track himself, Avery infuses his personal frustration with men into the song, but he also acknowledges that there’s something about them that makes them undeniable. For us men-loving folk, this is a fatal flaw, but we succumb to it every time.
To justify creating a private Snapchat story for only one guy: “My intuition’s under attack by boys”
I Am America, Shea Diamond
Trans rights activist and singer Shea Diamond is an inspiration. Diamond first made it on the scene with “I Am Her”, a soul-rock anthem about her right to exist as a proud Black trans woman that she wrote while being humiliated and discriminated against in prison. “I Am America” carries the pride and unapologetic flair that Diamond has embodied in her discography. Fit with her powerful vocals and a joyful production, “I Am America” is a celebration of life and a diverse America.
To verbalize your impact: “I know I get you excited / my existence is a riot”
Not OK!, Chaz Cardigan
Alternative rock has not been a very popular field for LGBTQ+ artists, but singers like Chaz Cardigan are breaking into it with songs like “Not OK!”. The infectious rock-pop tune is an honest look into the struggles of growing up and dealing with them as various versions of yourself. On the track, Cardigan brings an angsty vibe that’s reminiscent of early 2000’s music and consequentially, comforting. Life’s hard and Cardigan reminds us that it’s ok to acknowledge it.
To speak for the crowd: “Everyone feels like they’re crazy / Why can’t I say it? I’m not okay”
Kelly, The Aces
“Kelly” comes from the personal dating experience of The Aces’ frontwoman, Cristal Ramirez. Ramirez describes an experience with a woman, who Ramirez thinks is not into their relationship as much as she is. What results is an absolutely frustrating and persistent attraction to “Kelly”. In a musical landscape where LGBTQ+ music is hardly popularized, let alone music about lesbian relationships, “Kelly” is a catchy alternative pop tune that doesn’t shy away from candidly talking about romance.
To explain her effect: “Golden hair and her eyes are that kind / Make you feel like heaven”
Cherry, Rina Sawayama
Rina Sawayama has always had a break-the-barriers vibe about her, and she did exactly that with “Cherry”. In this electropop tune, Sawayama proudly proclaims her identity as a pansexual woman, describing the celebratory moments and the struggles with appreciating her sexuality. Sawayama’s vocals on the track are as intricate as her growth as a pansexual woman against anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and self-doubt, but they both yield a beautiful product in the end. Paired with an equally gorgeous music video, “Cherry” is a promising look into the appreciation of LGBTQ+ identities in the future of music.
To acknowledge what’s going on: “Even though I’m satisfied / I lead my life within a lie”